CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston: Top-three finishers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 MERRILL CAIN: I think you made all your bosses walk away with a smile this weekend, Sebastien. SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I just wish that Paul was there, but I'm sure he was watching. MERRILL CAIN: Let's open it up for ...

Continued from part 1

MERRILL CAIN: I think you made all your bosses walk away with a smile this weekend, Sebastien.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I just wish that Paul was there, but I'm sure he was watching.

MERRILL CAIN: Let's open it up for questions from the audience.

Q: Sebastien, I heard you say your car wasn't as good later in the race. Can you explain what happened?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know what happened. But when the yellow came out, when we did our first pit stop, it felt like something broke on the car. I don't know if it's a damper or something else or maybe just we lost the handling on the car. That just feels like too much for a change of tires. I just felt like we had a flat right rear.

So it was -- I was really worried in the car, making quite a few mistakes after the race start. Oriol was quite fast. The balance wouldn't come back for at least six, seven, eight laps. So I was getting really nervous, having an even tougher time to make the mileage I was hoping to get.

So, you know, it was pretty uncertain at that point because I had no idea what the others had fuel in their tanks, if we were full or not. I didn't want to ask on the radio because I didn't want to give away our strategy. It was just really stressful. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what I should have been doing. Hmm, not looking so good.

You know, between this and the fact that the car would not stop towards the end of the race, it was just a little bit of frustration from the inside. But I guess we made it stick, and it's even sweeter at the end.

Q: Your last five laps were like sensationally great. Is that because you couldn't stop?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No (laughter). I think the reason -- the reason why I nearly crashed it is a consequence I couldn't stop the car at the chicane. You saw probably that I hit the curb pretty hard head on. The second one, the car was just sailing down the corners. I was kind of really unsure whether I would be able to stop it or not. There was just no bite any more in the brakes. I don't know why that is. The pedal was kind of normal long, which you'd expect toward the end of the race. But it wouldn't slow down, at least not as it should have been with the weight, with the fuel we had in the car. I don't know what happened. Maybe we just faded the brakes or something. But it was a weird feeling. Very uncomfortable when you're trying to stop at the end of the race, that's for sure.

Q: Graham, I think I heard you say in your TV interview that Servia might have had a problem with his 'push to pass'. Is that true?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, we came down the back straight, he got a bad run out of turn four. He was using the 'push to pass' trying to get ahead of me. I noticed his taillight started blinking. That's how I knew he pressed the button. Then he came out of turn six at the end of the back straight. I almost hit him. Obviously the pit lane limiter had come on.

But he figured it out pretty quickly, so. I mean, I think I know there was some issue there. I don't know how many cars that happened to. I mean, should have been aware that it was going to happen or the possibility was there. You could just look at the dash and see if it's on or not. Surprising that he hadn't caught it. But I guess it happens, so...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, got it too. It's pretty much all the way up and down pit lane. A new interesting thing, you press overtake, you get the PLT on. It's interesting if you don't see it.

Q: Sebastien, you used the 'power to pass' on the last lap. Did you just want to set the fastest lap there? Were you concerned since the car didn't have much bite there in the brakes that that might be a problem?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I was just trying to make it up for a little bit, yeah. It was just a little easier to try to gain some time around the Astrodome, back off on the brakes, just to make sure I was there. It didn't cost as much on the performance side that it cost in the confidence. You know, it was stopping; it was just not stopping quite as well as I kind of was used to. And when you get into the attack mode, then you just lose a little bit in the confidence in the car and it gets a little bit harder.

Q: Robert, all the other things you're getting used to, the rolling start, saving fuel, can you talk about restarts and full-course yellows, not probably entirely new to you, but happen obviously much more often in this sort of thing, how you're adapting to that?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah, no, of course obviously the safety cars are normal in any type of racing. You just have to, you know, keep the tires up to temperature. The communication is very good with my team, you know, in asking what's going on, if I need to save fuel, you know, when I should start attacking the tires to bring up some temperature.

Yeah, and then you just have to be committed really straightaway even with cold tires. I really start enjoying driving the car on the limits obviously. And I have to say today for me was like every lap was like qualifying. I mean, I was really pushing to make up time for the other guys because I had to come from so far behind. It's not ideal. Obviously you want to start in the front and keep the pace.

It really worked out well and I could save the tires as well, which was very important. The rear tires, they went off quite quickly. Yeah, so the right foot today was my traction control instead of a button on the steering wheel.

Q: Robert, could you talk a little more in detail about the start. You said you passed a number of cars. I know you're not used to the rolling starts. Were you braver just because it's something you're not used to?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: No, no, I can imagine all the eyes were probably on the first row, the second row. But I was there in the back coming on the inside, you know, taking a lot of risk obviously because you have to make up time. There were definitely slower cars on the grid in front of me which I didn't want to be stuck behind really.

So, yeah, I took a bit of risk. It worked out. Was side by side with I think Servia at one stage or Dominguez, one of the Forsythe cars. It was fair racing. We didn't touch. We left each other just enough room. But I had the advantage. Yeah, then I took Junqueira as well in turn four. That was it. Settled in the pace behind Graham, was pushing really hard for Jani. I was just waiting for something to happen and saving my fuel. Yeah, it worked out well.

Q: Graham, you know a little bit about great race car drivers obviously from your dad, other guys you grew up watching, just what you've heard from them as a child about great open-wheel racers. How good do you think that guy is sitting next to you (referring to Bourdais)? How good do you think he is in terms of what you know about great open-wheel drivers?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I mean, I think, as always, the record speaks for itself. I mean, I think my dad had 27 wins in this series. But you got to look, Seb is catching up pretty quick. I know a lot of people say that open-wheel racing in the United States, the drivers aren't as talented, this or that. I'll tell you what, I mean, it is still difficult to drive these cars at the limit for anybody.

So, you know, Seb's obviously mastered that. He shows it by the way he wins, I mean, basically most of the times that we come out to a track. I mean, learning from him, it's been awesome 'cause as the guys in the engineering room say, he's the king of saving fuel, this and that. If I can match him, then I hope my success will follow.

Q: Question for the king of saving fuel.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I haven't said that (laughter).

Q: Take us through that stretch towards the end when you were behind Tristan, deja vu from Long Beach. Looked like you made a serious effort to pass him in turn six.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: What was going on was: It's a pretty good day, don't (mess) it up. It was getting to the point where between the brakes and everything else, it was getting -- you know, I felt like we had the car, but it was just not the time to run it really. And you just -- you know, I kind of had the feeling, well, you know, it's either going to go our way and it's going to go green to the end and we're going to win it or it's going to go his way and he's going to win it. That's racing, I guess.

Sorry for the (mess) word!

MERRILL CAIN: We'll let it slide, Sebastien.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm just French. I cannot forget about it.

Q: Were you pretty sure he didn't have the fuel to go?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, yeah, I mean, the engineers knew exactly where he was going to pit, what was going to happen if it was to be green. But obviously any yellow was going to buy him the win. I guess they pushed it as far as they could. Actually, it nearly cost us the win because when he ran out of fuel coming off of turn eight, I touched him. I had no time to move over. He stayed pretty much in the middle of the racetrack. I was like, Whoa. I heard the front wing. I looked, it was still there, all right. Yeah, no, it was that close. It did touch. So I guess the Panoz front wing is pretty tough.

It's tough to improve from last year. You have to deal with the site you've got. The main thing is you don't have much of a straight line. The longest full-time throttle is around the Astrodome, and it's not quite long enough to really get a tow. Last year I was able to pass because somehow I just found the sweetest spot around the Astrodome. I was not jumping as hard as the cars that were in front of us. This year, even with Wilson when he was struggling, I was getting a little bit of a better exit off of turn four, but yet I never had the feeling that I could just go side by side with him and pass him. It was the same thing with Gommendy.

It really is tough to pass. It's just tough and rough racing. But I think it was a good show today. It's just a street course and it's tough to pass, period. It's not as easy as Long Beach or many other places.

MERRILL CAIN: I'd like to thank the media for their coverage this weekend. It's been a great weekend here in Houston. Drivers, thanks for putting on a great show today. Have a good evening.

-credit: ccws

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